I don’t know Anthony well. He’s a member of the wealth management team that handles the investments for one of my clients. We speak by phone once or twice a year to review tax related details as he prepares the financials for filing.
The conversation always starts with pleasantries before we get to the nitty gritty, and this one started out with me asking if he was enjoying his summer so far. With a bit of a sigh, he said he was trying to keep things steady at home. He explained that it’s been a challenge which continues to grow daily for he and his wife. It seems that their three kids, now on summer break from school, are pushing the parental envelope with teenage hormones and sibling antics that have ramped up to the point of exasperation.
‘How old is your oldest?” I asked.
‘Fifteen…a boy” he replied. “They’re all three years apart in age”.
“Hang in there” I told him. “I also have three children, all grown up now, and I can tell you there is a light at the end of the tunnel”. He asked about their ages, and what each one was doing now. And then he asked for the ‘best’ advice I could offer.
“Ease off on the small stuff, and save the confrontations for the really important issues”, I told him. We talked briefly about teen behavior: the moodiness and volatility. And we also talked about the never-ending sibling rivalry…when they weren’t fighting amongst each other, they were up to stupid antics in solidarity.
Listening to other parents talk about their trials and tribulations is so often like a walk down memory lane…their experiences are all so familiar, with occasional variation along the way. My husband traveled so much during the years our children were growing, that I felt like a single parent raising three children on my own much of the time. He’d be gone Monday through Friday, sometimes two or more weeks out of every month. One year, he spent nine straight months commuting from our home in Colorado to Dallas, Texas.
I’ve been thinking about my advice to Anthony. And although I feel my ‘best’ advice was exactly what I offered, I think there is a second part to that. It’s really a two-step playbook:
STEP ONE: Ease off on the small stuff and save the confrontations for the really important issues.
STEP TWO: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
In order for Step One to be effective, Step Two is crucial. And, maybe Step Two should really BE Step One.
The entire brief conversation about parenting now has me reflecting back on those challenging years. There are a multitude of memories that come to mind. Oh, the stories I could share…there truly are scores of ’em. Lots are hilariously funny now, though I sure couldn’t find the humor at the time.
But here we are, all these years later. My husband and I couldn’t be prouder of the adults our children have become. I tried my best to parent with a firm guidance, but the love for my children trumped all. I made mistakes along the way, I’m sure. Personally, I can’t think of a one, but I’m guessing the kids could tell you some. All three of them recently blew me away when they individually wrote messages as a tribute to my milestone birthday which was just a short month ago. In part, they read:
- What I love about Mom… is that she sets an example as to how to persevere when you think you can’t do it, how to be yourself when you’re told to conform, how to be strong when you feel weak, how to be independent when you think you can’t do it alone, how to coexist when you think you can’t do it together, how to be conﬁdent when you’re not sure, how to speak up when something needs to be said, and how to set the example for others when nobody else has. HOW TO BE A REAL GOOD, HONEST INDIVIDUAL.
- What I love about Mom is her innate motherly instinct – her ability to read my mood and ALWAYS cheer me up!
- There’s nothing more special for a daughter than knowing her mother is always thinking about her.
I’ve read those words, and the messages in their entirety, over and over again…reflecting back on all the years passed. They were absolutely the brightest years of my life. The joys and the challenges, all of it.
Being their parent was always more important than being their friend. I’ve retired my playbook, but not my sense of motherhood. My children are everything to me, and I cannot imagine my life’s journey without them in it.